Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War

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NBCC 2016 Finalists, Leonard Prize, and Balakian Award Winners

The finalists for the annual National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award have been announced, offering up the customary shortlists of great fiction and nonfiction. In addition, the John Leonard Prize for best debut novel was awarded to Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing; the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Michelle Dean (check out her 2016 Year in Reading); and Margaret Atwood took home the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

The NBCC Award will be presented March 17 in a public ceremony.

Fiction

Michael Chabon, Moonglow (our interview with Chabon)
Louise Erdrich, LaRose
Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone
Ann Patchett, Commonwealth 
Zadie Smith, Swing Time (the author’s Year in Reading; our review)

 

Nonfiction

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Lisa Lucas and Imbolo Mbue on the book)
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive Idea of Racist History of Racist Ideas in America 
Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (edited by our own Zoë Ruiz!)
John Edgar Wideman, Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File

 

A Year in Reading: Zoë Ruiz

During the first half of the year, I read poetry.  While I stayed at Rachel McLeod Kaminer’s downtown loft, I picked up Patti Smith’s Early Work: 1970-1979 and Louise Mathias’s The Traps from her bookshelf, and later in the year, read Kaminer’s collection As in the Dark, Descend. In San Francisco, McSweeney’s editor Andi Winnette handed me Rebecca Lindenberg’s Love, an Index. Lindenberg’s partner went on a trip to research volcanoes in Japan and then disappeared. He never returned. She lost him and she wrote these poems. While in Connecticut, I read Gary Young’s Adversary and when I was back in California, I read Young’s Even So. I read Love Sonnets and Elegies by Louise Labé and I didn’t think I’d particularly enjoy love sonnets by a woman from the 16th century but I did. I liked reading her yearning. It made that kind of ache seem timeless.

I spent hours late at night reading the manga Lone Wolf and Cub, a tale of violent revenge set in Japan’s Edo period. The lead character is a former shogun’s executioner who lives a life as an assassin and cares for his toddler-aged son. Father and son, together they travel the country, carrying out murders. As this 28-volume tale unfolds, the plot thickens and more becomes at stake, but I only read up to volume 13 because I became distracted by life. There is a strong likelihood that I will spend the second half of December fiendishly finishing this blood-filled story. Not only are the illustrations of the landscape beautiful and many of the lines read like poetry, but I’m slightly in love with this story.

I read What Becomes Us by my former professor Micah Perks. The language in this story is lively and reads fast, and the story centers on Evie who is pregnant with twins and leaves her abusive husband on the West Coast to start a new life on the East Coast. The town she moves to is community-oriented but also strange and a bit creepy. As Evie’s hunger for love, food, and more takes her over, she begins to have visions of historical figure Mary Rowlandson. During King Philip’s War, Mary Rowlandson was held captive and wrote a narrative about her experience; this captivity narrative was the first prose book published by a woman in the Americas. After I finished What Becomes Us, I read The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.

I read Natashia Deón’s critically acclaimed debut novel Grace, which is an epic novel that masterfully and keenly tells the story of Naomi and her daughter, Josey, as well as the stories of the men and women they encounter. All of Deón’s characters are alive and complex and her language is filled with rich images that delight, surprise, and many times hurt. Grace brings the history of slavery in the United States very close to the reader and in doing so, offers the reader space to imagine the dreams and visions of the people who lived this history, dreams and visions that people in power suppressed and tried to erase from our history and imagination.

In April, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Nothing Ever Dies was published by Harvard University Press and the book was shortlisted for the National Book Award for nonfiction. Nguyen wrote a critical text that examines war and memory and forgetting, and this academic book is accessible to nonacademic readers. For years, I told myself I wasn’t smart enough to comprehend theoretical and academic texts, but after reading and line-editing Nugyen’s book, I realized that not only are some academic works accessible and comprehendible, but their analysis of relevant topics are crucial in helping me understand the world in which I live. I suppose I believe that if I fully understand power structures, then I can strategically fight against them.

I read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric and after I finished the book, I read interviews with her from 2014 and listened to recordings of her reading excerpts of Citizen. In September, she became a MacArthur Fellow and that same month in a Buzzfeed interview said, “As citizens, we’re being asked to be in collusion with the murder of black people, to not regard it as a state of emergency, and to continue in our normal course of business.” This year, she encouraged us as American citizens to acknowledge that we are in state of emergency. In October, I read headlines that she was using the MacArthur grant to study whiteness and that she stated, “It’s important that people begin to understand that whiteness is not inevitable, and that white dominance is not inevitable.” In 2017, I want to read books that help further the idea that both whiteness and white dominance are not inevitable, and I want to read books that help me understand how exactly we got to the place that we are in now.

More from A Year in Reading 2016

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

2016 National Book Award Finalists Announced

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Book award season enters high gear as the National Book Award finalists have been released. Winners will be announced in New York City on November 16.

The short list includes the big fall book by Colson Whitehead and Jacqueline Woodson’s first novel for adults in 20 years. It’s a great time to be a reader.

You read about nearly all of the books on the Fiction list here first, of course, as they appeared in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews.

Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:

Fiction:

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (“Men in Tights Crammed into Confined Spaces“)
News of the World by Paulette Jiles (excerpt (pdf))
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (I Want Complete Freedom When I Write: The Millions Interviews Karan Mahajan)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (“Scars That Never Fade“)
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (A Most Anticipated book)

Nonfiction:

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (Most Anticipated)
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (excerpt)
Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Year in Reading)
The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (excerpt)
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Most Anticipated)

Poetry:

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky
Collected Poems 1974–2004 by Rita Dove (Race and American Poetry: Dove v. Vendler)
Archeophonics by Peter Gizzi (Peter Gizzi on J.H. Prynne)
The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler (poem)
Look by Solmaz Sharif (the title poem)

Young People’s Literature:

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Susan Orlean on Kate DiCamillo)
March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (our review of Book One in the series)
When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (excerpt)
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

2016 National Book Award Longlists Unveiled

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Book award season enters high gear as the National Book Award finalists have been released in a series of four longlists consisting of ten books apiece. Five finalists in each category will be announced on October 13, and winners will be announced in New York City on November 16.

The fiction list seems well balanced but also includes many familiar names. Alongside highly touted books by Colson Whitehead and Garth Greenwell are critical darlings like Lydia Millet and Karan Mahajan. It’s a great time to be a reader.

You read about nearly all of the books on the Fiction longlist here first, of course, as they appeared in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews.

Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:

Fiction:

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (“Men in Tights Crammed into Confined Spaces“)
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell (“ISO the Next Great Gay Novel“)
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (A Most Anticipated book)
News of the World by Paulette Jiles (excerpt (pdf))
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (I Want Complete Freedom When I Write: The Millions Interviews Karan Mahajan)
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (excerpt)
Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet (Lydia Millet, writing at The Millions)
Miss Jane by Brad Watson (Brad Watson’s Year in Reading)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (“Scars That Never Fade“)
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (A Most Anticipated book)

Nonfiction:

America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History by Andrew J. Bacevich (excerpt)
The Firebrand and the First Lady, Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott (excerpt)
Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen (interview)
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (Most Anticipated)
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (excerpt)
Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Year in Reading)
Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil (Most Anticipated)
The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez (excerpt)
The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha (interview)
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson (Most Anticipated)

Poetry:

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky
Collected Poems 1974–2004 by Rita Dove (Race and American Poetry: Dove v. Vendler)
Archeophonics by Peter Gizzi (Peter Gizzi on J.H. Prynne)
The Selected Poems of Donald Hall by Donald Hall (Sonya Chung on Donald Hall)
The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler (poem)
Bestiary by Donika Kelly (poem)
World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead
Look by Solmaz Sharif (the title poem)
Blackacre by Monica Youn (Siobhan Phillips on Monica Youn)
Blue Laws by Kevin Young (poem)

Young People’s Literature:

Booked by Kwame Alexander (excerpt)
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Susan Orlean on Kate DiCamillo)
March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (our review of Book One in the series)
When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (excerpt)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (excerpt)
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (excerpt(pdf))
Pax by Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson (excerpt)
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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